Astronomers using a powerful telescope in Chile have discovered a monster star, 20 million times brighter than our sun
Scientists from Britain, Malaysia and Germany have been working in the Atacama Desert in Chile's north, using a telescope described as the "world's biggest eye on the sky".
The discovery of the star R136a1 doubles the previously accepted limit of solar mass.
The star was born 320 times heaver than our sun is now.
But the star that burns twice as bright, burns half as long. This star is expected to blow up in a few million years, which is the blink of an eye in cosmic terms.
In the last 1.5 million years it has has already lost mass equivalent to 20 suns.
Dr Richard Parker, from the University of Sheffield in northern England, says the scientists were investigating the star formation process for clues on how the sun evolved when they found the star.
"We basically pointed a telescope at a star-forming region that isn't in our own galaxy," he said.
"It's actually in what we call a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way, called the Large Magellanic Cloud."
He says the new star's days are numbered.
"There aren't any planets around this new star. It's so big it'll only live for 10 million years, and planetary systems take at least a billion to form."
But he says when it explodes, it will release chemical dust that will transform more modest stars like the sun.
"People are very interested in trying to work out where the sun came from," he said.
"This may be just the tip of the iceberg if we can find some other star-form regions.
"A lot more theoretical work is going to have to go into understanding how these stars form and how they live, because they really are the key to understanding how we get heavy chemical elements that form life as we know it on Earth."